17 Jan 20

Uber's safety code

After having released its first safety report, Uber has now also added a new safety feature. A PIN verification feature should make it impossible for people to get in the wrong car, but will it make up for the more than 6,000 reports of sexual assaults in the US in 2017 and 2018? 

The new safety feature is intended to prevent people from getting in the wrong car as happened with the student Samantha Josephson, who got murdered after entering in a car she assumed was the Uber she had ordered. 

Cracking the Code

Uber already increased its safety features by sending push notifications to riders with the identity and number plate of the driver, in order to let them verify they got in the right car. Yet, this push notification is easily ignored and similar incidents could easily happen again. By requiring riders to supply a PIN code to their driver to verify that they are in the right vehicle, both riders and drivers are forced to verify the right identity. If the PIN is not entered by the driver, the trip won’t officially start. 

Yet, this safety feature is optional, and riders have to enable the feature in their settings, either for every ride, or for night trips only (9pm to 6am). Although a safe strategy, the optional side of it might limit its actual usage to those riders that are already cautious and aware of the risks of getting in the wrong car. 

Luckily, this feature comes on top of other safety features as the ones below. 

  1. Check your ride notification. Make sure to double check two important details before starting your ride, to avoid getting into the wrong vehicle: check the driver and the car information provided in the app. To remind its riders doing this, Uber has installed a push notification which is send out to its riders.
  2. Share your ride. Riders and drivers can send their trip details to loved ones who can follow along and know when they arrive safely. The app allows you to add up to five trusted contacts, to whom the app will send your trip and arrival once you arrive at your destination. 
  3. Rate & report. Riders and drivers can report safety issues through the app at all hours of the day and the Uber support team will respond and take action to hold them accountable. If behaviour at odds with the Uber’s Community Guidelines and Terms and Conditions is confirmed, it may lead to the user losing access to the app.
  4. Emergency button. By a click on the Emergency Button, the rider will be connected immediately with the emergency services. To help you share your information, the app will show your real-time location on the map and as an address. And your location and trip details will be sent automatically to 911 dispatchers as well, if taking a ride in the US.
  5. Unexpected long stop. Uber has also added technology to detect unexpected long stops on a trip or a potential crash, in order to increase the safety of riders and drivers during the ride. 

These features are Uber’s response to safety concerns amongst its users, on which it reported in its first safety report as released at the end of last year (December 2019). This unveiled about 6,000+ reports of sexual assaults in 2017 and 2018, among which 464 reported cases of rape. This number should be seen in the context of about a billion trips taken in the US in 2017 and 2018. The global picture could be different and the report only talks about the reported cases whereas some cases of sexual assault may not have been reported.

Authored by: Fien Van den steen